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30 Apr 2019
a level art
Do you need to get a grade A in art?

Will this win you a place at art college / university?

With the exam season upon us, pressure is on to get your best grades as you can – naturally.

The very first requirement that you need to comply with for your UCAS application is to meet the exam grades. This can be the first hurdle as they are very high these days – mainly due to the fact that most of the Scottish Art Schools now are not independent and are part of the University of each particular city. Although Glasgow is not, but still, the entry grades there are the highest.

  • Glasgow School of Art require Highers: ABBB and above (one sitting) or AABB and above (two sittings) OR A Levels: ABB plus GCSE English Language at grade A.
  • Edinburgh College of Art require Highers: ABBB by the end of S5 OR A Levels: ABB plus GCSE English Language at grade C.

In my experience this starts many of us creative types off on a challenge as we’re not necessarily academic AND creative, I know I certainly wasn’t at school. 

However most us will excel in Art or Design and assume that because we get an A or even a B in these subjects then it’s a given that we’ll get an offer at art college / university.

I’ve worked with many students who have A’s at Higher or A Level and aren’t offered places at college. You might be wondering ‘Why is this?’

Well, my experience tells me that the main focus on Higher and Advanced Higher, also A Level to a degree – although it does vary from school to school is mainly on mastery of skills, technical skills and perception to represent objects and subjects accurately.

I see very little that explores ideas, how to communicate an idea that shows the process of firstly having the idea, then how you arrived at the final outcome. Sometimes this process is evident but it’s very artificial and often the sketchbook and development is done AFTER the final piece has been decided upon. Often students leave pages to complete at a later date in the creative process but really this renders the creative process useless. Your decision making and creative process is supposed to DRIVE you to your final piece – not just be something that’s done to tick the boxes.

So in short, no you don’t need to get an A in art as long as you have the requirements, so a B might be enough. The single most important thing over and above reaching those entrance requirements is your portfolio.

If you recognise some of what I’ve talked about here then maybe it’s time to make some changes. Changing the way you’re thinking and working at S5 or even S4 (or year 12 outside Scotland) will give you such a head start on making your winning portfolio.



If you’ve not already downloaded my “Top 10 mistakes that are holding you back from success at your first choice art school” please do as many of these simple mistakes are avoidable.

Hoping this finds you well and remember that if you’d like to discuss anything with me personally you can reach me here

* Join my positive and inspiring Facebook Community for STUDENTS here.  One member wrote about being in the Facebook Group – ‘It was as good as being with you face to face so when I started on my own at home, I knew I was heading in the right direction and grew in confidence with the exploration instead of second guessing myself ‘Cathy Wagstaff

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